Know Ohio: Early Pioneers of Ohio

TODAY OHIO IS HOME TO BUSTLING CITIES, BOOMING INDUSTRIES – AND OVER 11 MILLION PEOPLE OF ALL DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS, BUT ABOUT 230 YEARS AGO, WHEN THE FIRST EUROPEAN SETTLERS ARRIVED. OHIO LOOKED KIND OF LIKE THIS:

VISITING OHIO BACK THEN WOULD BE LIKE TAKING THE MOST INTENSE CAMPING TRIP OF YOUR LIFE – WITH ROUGH TERRAIN AND UNTAMED FORESTS FULL OF SOME PRETTY SCARY WILD ANIMALS!

NATIVE AMERICANS HAD BEEN BRAVING THE OHIO WILDERNESS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, BUT THE FIRST EUROPEANS TO SET FOOT IN OHIO – WEREN’T EXACTLY CHARMED BY IT. FRENCH AND ENGLISH EXPLORERS CAME AND WENT, EVEN SETTING UP TRADING POSTS IN OHIO AS EARLY AS THE1660’S -- BUT NOBODY WAS WILLING TO ACTUALLY LIVE HERE. THAT IS UNTIL A DARING GROUP OF NEW ENGLANDERS HATCHED A PLAN IN 1787.

THEY MET HERE – AT THE BUNCH OF GRAPES TAVERN IN BOSTON – AND TALKED ABOUT HOW COOL IT WOULD BE TO SET UP A COMMUNITY IN THE GREAT WILDERNESS WEST OF PENNSYLVANIA – KNOWN THEN AS THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY. THE LEADERS OF THIS GROUP WERE MANASSEH CUTLER AND RUFUS PUTNAM –AND THEY ASSEMBLED A HEARTY GROUP OF 48 REVOLUTIONARY WAR VETERANS TO MAKE THE DIFFICULT JOURNEY WEST. THIS GROUP WAS OFFICIALLY CALLED THE OHIO COMPANY OF ASSOCIATES – BUT, NOW, WE REFER TO THEM AS THE FIRST 48!

THEY LEFT FROM NEW ENGLAND IN DECEMBER – AND THE JOURNEY INCLUDED SOME PARTICULARLY HARSH WINTER WEATHER, BUT THESE MEN WERE WAR HEROES, FOR GOD SAKES! ONCE THEY MADE IT TO PENNSYLVANIA IN ONE PIECE, THEY BUILT RAFTS AND CANOES, WHICH CARRIED THEM ALONG THE YAAK-A-GEEN-EE RIVER AND ON TO THE OHIO RIVER – WHERE THEY EVENTUALLY LANDED IN SOUTHEASTERN OHIO TO ESTABLISH THE FIRST PERMANENT SETTLEMENT HERE. THEY CALLED IT MARIETTA IN HONOR OF MARIE ANTOINETTE, THE FRENCH QUEEN AT THE TIME – THIS IS BECAUSE FRANCE WAS OUR ALLY DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR – AND, REMEMBER, THESE MEN HAD ALL FOUGHT IN THE WAR.

THESE EARLY OHIOANS GOT TO WORK DIVVYING UP THE LAND. THE FIRST 48 GOT THEIR LAND DONATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – AND OTHER PIECES OF LAND WERE SOLD TO INVESTORS AND PIONEERS WHO CAME OUT LATER. MOST OF THESE SETTLERS WERE NEW ENGLANDERS – AND THEY SET UP OHIO’S FIRST CITY TO LOOK A LOT LIKE THE CITIES THEY LEFT BEHIND. 

THEY SET ASIDE LAND FOR GOVERNMENT, AND FOR CHURCHES, AND FOR EDUCATION. EDUCATION WAS SO IMPORTANT TO THESE EARLY SETTLERS, THAT THEY LEFT A SIZEABLE PATCH OF OHIO’S EARLY LAND FOR THIS PURPOSE. AND WHEN OHIO BECAME A STATE 15 YEARS LATER, ONE OF THE OHIO GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S FIRST ACTS WAS TO ESTABLISH "THE OHIO UNIVERSITY" ON THIS LAND.

THE UNIVERSITY OPENED IN 1808 WITH ONE BUILDING, THREE STUDENTS, AND ONE PROFESSOR – BUT IT GREW INTO WHAT IS NOW OHIO UNIVERSITY IN ATHENS -- OHIO’S OLDEST EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION. RUFUS PUTNAM, WHO LED THE FIRST 48 TO OHIO, WAS AN EARLY TRUSTEE OF THE UNIVERSITY – IN 1926 OHIO UNIVERSITY’S PUTNAM HALL WAS NAMED IN HONOR OF THIS EARLY OHIO PIONEER.

EVENTUALLY, SETTLERS PUSHED FURTHER INTO OHIO, AND, SOON, MARIETTA WAS DWARFED BY GROWING CITIES, LIKE CINCINNATI AND CLEVELAND – BUT MARIETTA WILL ALWAYS BE OHIO’S FIRST CITY.


Instructional Links


Timeline: Ohio History Central, Exploration to Statehood | Links to early Ohio history

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